2014-05-31 17:08:41 UTC
Born on this day in 1914, he died in 1978.
Not to be confused with at least three other authors,
including one woman! Or the young basketball player.
His fairy tales are included in Jack Zipes' 1986 anthology:
"Don't Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy
Tales in North America and England."
"Jay Williams (May 31, 1914 - July 12, 1978) was an American
author born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Max and Lillian
Jacobson. He cited the experience of growing up as the son
of a vaudeville show producer as leading him to pursue his
acting career as early as college...
"...Out of school and out of work during the end of the
Depression, he worked as a comedian on the upstate New York
Borscht Belt circuit...And even though he played a feature role
in the Cannes prize winning film, The Little Fugitive produced
in 1953, he turned his attention to writing as a full time career
after his discharge from the Army in 1945. He was the recipient
of the Purple Heart. While serving in the Army he published his
first book, The Stolen Oracle, in 1943.
"Williams may be best known for his young adult 'Danny Dunn'
science fiction/fantasy series which he co-authored with Raymond
Abrashkin. Though Abrashkin died in 1960, he is listed as
co-author of all 15 books of this series, which continued from
1956 until 1977. Jay Williams also wrote mysteries for young
adults, such as The Stolen Oracle, The Counterfeit African, and
The Roman Moon Mystery.
"Williams also wrote adult crime fiction using the pseudonym
Michael Delving. This may be a reference to Michel Delving, a
large hobbit-populated town in The Lord of the Rings...
"Jay Williams also wrote a number of successful historical novels
for adults, including The Witches, a look at the eradication
of the healing women in Scotland; Solomon and Sheba; The Siege,
a tale of the 13th century wars initiated by the Pope against
the Albigensian heresy; and The Rogue from Padua, a novel that
takes place in the Renaissance.
"And he was interested in the future in his many speculative
science fiction tales, often published in The Magazine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction; eight of these stories were published under
the title, Unearthly Beasts. His novel Uniad sees a world in which individuality has shrunk...
"...His interest in history is reflected in the non-fiction books
he wrote: The Middle Ages, Knights of the Crusades, The Spanish
Armada, and Joan of Arc, as well as his young adult Landmark book
on World War II, The Battle for the North Atlantic...
"...In all, he published at least 79 books including 11 picture
books, 39 children's novels, 7 adult mysteries, 4 nonfiction books,
8 historical novels and a play."
(obit - you have to register)
(trailer for "The Little Fugitive" - in B&W)
(movie review and photo of Williams, as the pony-rides man at
Coney Island in "The Little Fugitive")
(about the Danny Dunn series - personally, I suspect Joe
was mainly there to make Irene look smarter by comparison)
"Danny Dunn was a precocious red-head who, more than anything,
was an expert at getting into and out of trouble. He can be
described in one word: headstrong. His widowed mother is the
live-in housekeeper for Professor Bullfinch, a renowned
scientist and the quintessential absent-minded professor.
Danny's two friends are mopey and pessimistic Joe, and rationale
and cool-headed Irene. And then there's Dr. Grimes, Professor
Bullfinch's curmudgeony colleague."
The DD series has been illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats and Paul
Quote of Jay Williams:
"Although the series is science-fiction, its stories are firmly
based on scientific fact. For instance, the Lamont Geological
Laboratories furnished information for The Ocean Floor and
I.B.M. contributed greatly to The Homework Machine. For The
Heat Ray, I was shown one of the first lasers in use. An attempt
has always been made to keep the science in the stories ahead
of actual scientific developments. Many of the inventions
suggested in The Automatic House, then purely hypothetical--such
as the video-telephone, the rotating house, and the door
responding to voice control--actually appeared in public use
within a year after the book was published."
(another blog on DD)
"What stood out - and, in some ways, stands out even more today
- about the Danny Dunn books was that while Danny was the main
protagonist, he was neither more competent than the adults
around him, nor one who deliberately concealed interesting or
important facts about his adventures from the adults around him.
Adults were an important part of Danny's life, both as supporters
and occasional obstacles, and Danny and his friends Irene and
Joe were interested not in remaining children in some separate
world of their own, but in understanding and, to the extent they
could, entering the world of the adults around them."
(includes photo and booklist)
At least nine of his fairy tale books were illustrated by
Friso Henstra, including "The Wicked Tricks of Tyl Uilenspiegel."
Another is "Seven at One Blow," which is an amusing twist
on "The Brave Little Tailor." You can see Henstra's pictures
(about two of his fairy tales)
From a review of "Petronella":
"Jay Williams, author of more than 80 books for children and
adults, didn't set out to write a feminist fairy tale. According
to his daughter, he was simply responding to a request from his
children to think up a story where the princess, for once, took
an active role. But Petronella, first published in 1973, came at
just the right moment to be embraced by the women's movement. Its
portrayal of an assertive female protagonist and reversal of gender stereotypes--relatively rare in children's fiction at the time--
won it wide attention, and it was much-reviewed and extensively
anthologized before falling of print (and out of fashion) in
the late 1970's.
"These days, strong heroines and gender reversals are commonplace,
in children's fiction as elsewhere, and Williams' scenario no
longer seems radical or even particularly surprising. Far from
diminishing Petronella's appeal, however, this shedding of political
baggage makes it possible to see just how charming the book really
is, with its engaging characters, amusing dialogue, clever
situations, and flowing, supple prose."
I was surprised to see there are at least three different
cover illustrations for "The Practical Princess and Other
Liberating Fairy Tales," not counting the "The Practical
Princess" hardcover solo edition, which was illustrated by
(At least two of those three have internal illustrations
by Rick Schreiter, who also illustrated books by Edgar Allan
Poe, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis
Stevenson, Margaret Hodges, Erich Kastner, Eve Merriam, and
he wrote and illustrated "The Delicious Plums of King Oscar
the Bad." Most of those were in the mid-late 1960s.)